By Allen White | May 17, 1999

The latest work from influential director Werner Herzog, this documentary retraces astonishing events that took place 25 years ago, when a plane crash in the Amazon jungle in Peru killed everyone aboard except a sole survivor, teenage Juliane Koepke.
Koepke not only survived the crash itself, but when search parties could not find the craft’s wreckage in the dense forest, she began a grueling 12-day trek through to reach civilization. Koepke ‘s parents were biologists, and she grew up at a research station at the jungle’s edge. Her knowledge of the local wilderness enabled her to make informed survival decisions, such as how to follow streams to where they met larger rivers. She lived on water alone, and exhausted and malnourished, finally found a man who brought her back to civilization.
The film crew rediscovered the wreckage with the assistance of local “macheteros,” who helped them hack long miles into the thick brush. There, Koepke recalled her remarkable experiences, and retraced her jungle hike.
Herzog had personal interest in making the film, as he was in Peru at the time of the crash filming “Aguirre: The Wrath of God.” He and his crew were scheduled to ride a leg of the same flight on the same plane as Koepke, and would have also inevitably perished had their pat of the flight not been canceled at the last minute.
Moving and poetic, Herzog takes artistic license with the film, and blurs the lines of documentary film with creative narration that ascribes his own feelings and ideas of the crash to Juliane.

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